Squill and the very similar Glory-of-the-Snow can be gently forced into bloom a few weeks ahead of their normal flowering time. Plant bulbs in September or October.
These two plants resemble each other in both appearance and growth habits. There are a number of different species, varieties and hybrids available. Squill originates from Africa, Europe and Asia, while Glory-of-the-Snow grows wild on the islands of Crete, Cyprus, and in Asia Minor.
The height of the plants depends on the type chosen but most are around 10cm (4in) tall. They spread by offsets or.
Colours and varieties
Scilla sibirica, the Siberian Squill, is one of the taller species. It grows to a height of 15cm (bin). When forced, the very brilliant blue bell-shapedappear in February. Each carries 2-5 flowers. S. sibirica ‘Alba’ has white flowers.
The taller S. peruviana, known as the Cuban Lily, flowers later in the year, from April to May when forced. Its delightful blue flowers are star shaped.
Chionodoxa sardensis, Glory-of-the-Snow, grows about 10cm (4in) high and has sky-blue flowers with white centres. C. luciliae grows from 5-10cm (2— 4in) high. The blue flowers have white centres; they bloom from January to February when forced.
Varieties of this species include C. ‘Rosea’, with pink flowers, and C. ‘Alba’, with white flowers.
Squill and Glory-of-theSnow are useful plants foror tubs on the , or for window-boxes.
Growing from bulbs
To force bulbs for flowering indoors, plant them in September or October.
Use small pots and a mixture of equal parts soil-basedand coarse sand. Plant the bulbs so that their ‘noses’ appear just above the level of the compost. The bulbs should be quite close together, but not actually touching each other.
Place the potted bulbs on a patio or balcony and cover them with 10-15cm (4-6in) of potting compost. In the coldest areas, cover the compost withor straw.
You can also dig a hole 30cm (12in) deep in the garden for the pots and cover them with fallen leaves, sand or peat moss. This Will enable you to get them up again easily if a severe frost makes the ground harden. Alternatively, you can sink the pots in a cold frame. This will make it easier to lift the pots when the time comes to bring the bulbs into the house to flower.
Allow at least 12 weeks in cool but frost-free temperatures for sufficient chilling andgrowth. When 1 cm ‘bin) shoots appear, move the pots to slightly higher temperatures.
Keep the bulbs at a temperature of around 10°C (50°F), until the flowers start to appear. They will last longest at about 15°C (60°F).
Once your indoor bulbs have flowered you can reuse them by planting them out in the garden.
Squill and Glory-of-theSnow bulbs are rarely affected by pests or by disease.
Grey mould appears on the bulbs when they are infected with a fungus. Prevention: You should only buy healthy bulbs. It is possible to prevent this problem by treating the bulbs before planting by dusting them with a fungicide powder.
Minor attacks of fungus can be controlled, but if your bulbs are badly infected with a fungus then you will have to discard them.
These are fairly easy plants to care for, as long as you follow the instructions carefully.
- : Use a mixture made of equal parts soil-based potting compost and coarse sand. Wide, shallow half-pots 15— 30cm (6-12in) across are ideal. Place a layer of pebbles or broken clay flowerpots in the bottom.
- The potting compost should not dry out during forcing, so add water occasionally. Water moderately in winter and when the plants are in flower.
- Feeding: These plants do not need to start with. They obtain all their nutrients from their bulbs. If planting in the garden, apply a general-purpose fertilizer.
- Light: Growing plants will tolerate full sun. Accustom forced bulbs to the light gradually after their first 12 weeks in the dark.
- Temperature: Bulbs need a long, cool period, followed by an indoor temperature of around 10°C (50°F) for forcing. They flower best at a temperature of 15°C (60°F).
When to buy
- Available in early autumn from garden centres, nurseries and some major chain stores.
- Choose firm undamaged bulbs, with no signs of fungal infection.
- They will last for many years but can be forced only once. After flowering, they must be planted outdoors or discarded.